the swing by jean honore fragonard
Name: The Swing (L’Escarpolette) (1767)
Artist: Jean-Honore Fragonard (1732-1806)
Medium: Oil painting on canvas
Genre: Genre painting
Movement: Rococo art
Location: Wallace Collection, London
For more background, see: the Rococo paintings of Hyacinthe Rigaud (1659-1743), painter to Louis XIV, and those of Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun (1755-1842), painter to Queen Marie-Antoinette, as well as works by Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). See also: French Decorative Art (c.1640-1792).
Clearly Fragonard had no qualms in fulfilling the Baron’s bawdy requests as one glance at The Swing shows that the painting is bursting with incomparable glee and rapture. The star, wearing a fluffy, ballet-pink dress, flies on a luscious red-cushioned swing through the outlandish foliage until she kicks her pink mule off of her foot, letting the ecstatic gentleman below see up her skirt.
Now regarded as one of the greatest painters in the Rococo movement, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s prolific career was characterized by outstanding success in genre paintings of merriment and veiled hedonism. Likewise, the story of The Swing begins with the commission request by Baron Louis-Guillaume Baillet de Saint-Julien, who wanted a portrait of his mistress. The Baron was very clear in his salacious intentions, specifically asking that in the painting his mistress was pushed on a swing by a bishop, while he (the Baron) looked up his mistress’s dress.
- One copy, once owned by Edmond James de Rothschild,  portrays the woman in a blue dress. 
- The other is a smaller version (56 × 46 cm), owned by Duke Jules de Polignac.  This painting became the property of the Grimaldi family in 1930 when Pierre de Polignac (1895-1964) married Princess Charlotte, Duchess of Valentinois (1898-1977). In 1966, the Grimaldi & Labeyrie Collection gave it to the city of Versailles, where it is currently exhibited at the Musée Lambinet, attributed to Fragonard’s workshop. 
The original owner remains unclear. A firm provenance begins only with the tax farmer Marie-François Ménage de Pressigny, who was guillotined in 1794,  after which it was seized by the revolutionary government. It was possibly later owned by the marquis des Razins de Saint-Marc, and certainly by the duc de Morny. After his death in 1865, it was bought at auction in Paris by Lord Hertford, the main founder of the Wallace Collection. 
Click on the detail to see the full image.
And now look at Cupid’s pose. The god of desire, erotic love, attraction and affection watches on with an all-knowing smile – he knows what’s really going on, and he implores your silence. And so, this otherwise innocent little childhood game is suddenly filled with playful innuendo and the audience becomes part of the clandestine affair.
This summer 2019 saw the launch of our ground-breaking conservation and research project focused around the Collection’s eight masterpieces by Jean-Honoré Fragonard.
Fragonard’s iconic painting is one of the most emblematic images of 18th-century French art. A young woman wearing a lovely pink silk frock is tantalisingly positioned mid-air on a swing between her elderly husband on the right and her young lover on the left. The force of the swing caused one of her slippers to fly off, resulting in a privileged view for her lover whose delight is suggested by the symbolic offer of his hat.